Jewish Players


This type of article is very difficult for me to assess.  Something about seems wrong, or at least not-quite-right, yet, the facts put forth seems accurate. The article was written in 1904, long before the Holocaust which determined that the peoples praised in this article were deserving of extinction. But singling out a particular group for either special (innate?) abilities or singling them out for certain (genetic?) deficiencies somehow seems like opposite sides of the same coin.   At any rate, the famous chess writer/editor Hartwig Cassel wrote the article below.  I included 2 short contemporary bios on Cassel himself to familiarize the reader with the author.      


From the Jewish Encyclopedia 1906
Journalist and chess editor; born Nov. 2, 1850, at Konitz, West Prussia, where his father, Dr. Aaron Cassel, was rabbi. He was educated at the Real-Gymnasium in Landsberg on-the-Warta, and in 1879 went to England, where he began his journalistic career as the chess editor of the "Observer-Budget," Bradford, Yorkshire. He wrote chess articles for the metropolitan and provincial English papers, organized the Yorkshire County Chess Club, arranged the Blackburne-Günsberg match at Bradford (1887) and the InternationalChess Masters' Tournament in 1888 at the same city. Cassel left England in 1889, and went to Havana for an English and New York newspaper syndicate to report the Tchigorin-Günsberg match. In 1890 he became chess editor of the New York papers, "The Sun" and the "Staats-Zeitung" (which appointments, he still holds), and since then has contributed chess articles to most of the metropolitan journals. He was instrumental in establishing the "Staats-Zeitung" and Rice trophies, and arranged, among other important contests, the first cable chess match between the Manhattan and British chess clubs. He is the inventor of a chess cable code.


Hartwig C. Cassel

From the American Chess Magazine 1897
     Hartwig Cassel, chess editor of the New York Sun. New York Tribune, New Yorker Staats Zeitung, and representative of the Associated Press, has been a resident of this country since 1889. Much of the advancement of chess in popular favor has been due to his energetic work, not the least of which has been the development of the cable service for chess, by means of which reports of European tournaments have been laid before American readers more fully and promptly than in former years. A description of his ingenious chess code will be found on another page.
     Mr. Cassel was born at Konitz, West Prussia, November 2, 1850. He was educated at the Real Gymnasium, Landsberg, A. W., where Lasker received his education fifteen years later. Mr. Cassel learned chess at school, and became a strong player during his stay in Berlin. About twenty years ago he moved to Scotland and joined the Glasgow Chess Club, where he was one of the members of the team in matches between the East and West. In 1881 Mr. Cassel settled in Yorkshire, where he was the successor of D. Y. Mills in the editorship of a chess column in one of the leading papers, and since then he has taken a prominent position in the ranks of chess journalists of both hemispheres. During his residence in Bradford Mr. Cassel was instrumental in organizing many trophy contests and matches between prominent players, and it was he who arranged the preliminaries for the international tournament at Bradford in 1887. In 1889 Mr. Cassel came to this country with Mr. Gunsberg, to assist in the reporting of the Gunsberg-Tschigorin match at Havana. At the conclusion of that match he was invited by the editor of "The New Yorker Staats Zeitung," to take charge of the sporting and chess departments of that paper, and his work as Chess Editor of the "Staats Zeitung" and in other chess journalism is well known. It was Mr. Cassel who first suggested the plan of an international match between the British and Manhattan chess clubs by cable, and the match between the universities of the two countries was originated by him. At his request Mr. Ottendorfer, of the "Staats Zeitung," presented the New York State Chess Association trophy to the clubs of the State. Mr. Cassel's efforts to popularize chess in the United States have been very effective.

                              ***  All about the  Staats Zeitung Cup

Additionally, Cassel had been secretary of the Bradford Chess Club and co-editor (with Herman Helms) of the American Chess Bulletin from 1904-1917.


From the New Era Illustrated Magazine,  1904

The National Game of Chess


     If there is such a thing among the Jews as a "national game," surely that title belongs by overwhelming right to the royal game of chess. The peculiar charm of chess, which affords entertainment at the same time that it instructs, has appealed from time immemorial to the race. Chess is more than a mere game, and those who "play" at it are known to the really expert as "woodshifters." The masters have raised it to the dignity of a study and many there are who regard it as equal with the arts and sciences. For upwards of fifty years there has not been a tournament of any account in Europe or America that has not had a Jew taking a prominent part therein, and to-day, as has been the case often before, the world's champion is one of them.

     Perhaps the most notable figure in all that half century is William Steinitz. He occupied the center of the stage continuously for twenty-eight years, though he eventually succumbed to Dr. Emanuel Lasker, the present champion of the world. Steinitz, who was a native of Prague, must be ranked with the supreme masters of chess. Indeed, as a duellist he was a master among masters. If not the greatest general of the age, he was certainly, like Wellington, the most successful. He owed his success to his profound belie in chess as a science, coupled with his equally profound belief in himself as the "grand monarque" of the game.  A friend invited the old player to supper some years ago and in the course of the evening they discussed political ecomomy, of which the host was a distinguished professor.  At last they touched upon the Malthusian theory.  The usual arguments, pro and con, were advanced and both sides waxed warm over the debate. And this did Steinitz wind up the discussion:  It's all nonsense what you say.  You tell me a poor man has no right to have a large family. You say his doing so is not honest, is a positive injury to his country and to humanity. I tell you you are wrong and I'll prove it. My father was a poor man, a very poor man. My father was an honest man, a very honest man. Well, he had thirteen children, and I, Wilhelm Steinitz, the chess champion of the world, I am the thirteenth."
     The great veteran's loyal and unswerving faith in his chess powers remained with him until the end, when, in 1900, at the age of 64, he passed away on Ward's Island, a victim to persistent railing against fate. He was the father of what is termed the modern school of "minute advantages," in distinction to that which promulgated brilliant and dashing, if sometimes unsound, tactics at whatever cost. His successor conquered him by mastering all the best there was in his teachings and rejecting the foibles that so greatly handicapped the veteran in his later years.

     Since wresting the world's championship from the aged Steinitz, ten years ago, Dr. Emanuel Lasker has held undisputed sway, and this remarkable player gives promise of equaling his predecessor's record. Since his accession to the throne, however, he has been less active as far as match chess is concerned, having been challenged for the title but twice. The first time is was "the grand old man" himself who threw down the gauntlet in a last resolve to recover, if circumstances might permit, his lost laurels. But he was doomed a second time to defeat at the hands of the imperturbable Lasker, this time at Moscow, in 1897.  Subsequently, David Janowski, of Paris, the recognized champion of France, invited Lasker to a trial of strength, but he was unwilling to accede to the terms the latter  as champion had a right to make and the negotiations fell through. While matches for the championship have been scarce, opportunities have not been lacking for Dr. Lasker to distinguish himself in tournaments. Only twice in six of these contests has he failed to finish in the lead. On each occasion the very finest talent known to the game was in evidence, and on the four occasions mentioned he emerged with a distinct advantage in score over his nearest rivals. Thus, in the quadrangular tournament at St. Petersburg with Steinitz, Pillsburv and Tschigorin, he led Steinitz by two points at the conclusion, and neither at Nuremberg in 1896, London in 1899, nor Paris in 1900 was he closely pressed. At Hastings in 1895, just prior to the Russian event, he was surpassed by both Pillsbury and Tschigorin, and at Cambridge Springs, Pa., last May, he was tied with Janowski for second place, Marshall being the winner of first prize on this occasion. While these tournaments were played for cash prizes only and no championship was involved, yet they served to prove to the chess world that Lasker could be more than a mere figurehead, and was able to uphold his reputation in the best of company under the most trying circumstances. In fact, his tournament record is surpassed by that of no other player, so that he may justly lay claim to the tournament championship as well as the honor already his by virtue of conquest. A chess master, and especially the champion, is as a rule a man of all countries. Dr. Lasker was born in Berlinchen, in 1868, and has in turn made his home in Germany, England and America, but he has at last determined to make this country his permanent place of residence. He is at present engaged in starting a monthly periodical to be devoted to chess affairs.

     Among the other leading Jewish chess players of the present day, David Janowski, champion of France: Geza Maroczy, champion of Hungary; Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, recognized as Germany's leading master; Michael Tschigorin, champion of Russia, are all considered in the class with Lasker and looked upon as fit candidates for the world's championship, though none of them has yet got so far as to make the attempt to pluck the coveted distinction. Janowski is of Polish birth, having first seen the light of day at Walkowisk, Russia, the same year in which Lasker was born. He has made Paris his home, and in breeding, manners and polish he is a thorough Frenchman. He has taken a prominent part in all the international tournaments of the past ten years and invariably found a high place. Twice he has placed the first prize to his credit, viz., at Monte Carlo in 1901 and at Hanover in 1902. At Cambridge Springs this year he led Lasker until the final round, when he encountered the champion and, being defeated, tied with him for second place.
     Geza Maroczy was born in Szegedin, Hungary, on March 3, 1870, and first came to notice as a chess player of more than average ability when he won the minor tournament at Hastings in 1895. The following year he surprised the talent by coming in second to Lasker at Nuremberg in one of the strongest fields that has entered a competition of the kind. 'This year he finished first in the fourth Monte Carlo tournament.
     No man is more respected among followers of chess than the eminent Nuremberg physician, who, despite a large practice, has yet managed to find time to master the most difficult of indoor games. Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch is by many considered without a peer as an analyst, and his authority on knotty points is seldom questioned. Both as a match and tournament player he holds an enviable position and his record made in gatherings of the masters he attended is second only to that of Lasker. His achievement of winning first prize in each of four succeeding tournaments is unique. This he accomplished at Breslau in 1889, Manchester in 1890, Dresden in 1892 and Leipsic in 1894. Probably his greatest effort resulted in his taking first prize in the jubilee tournament held in Vienna in 1898, after tieing with Pittsbury for first prize. On that occasion the two leaders had each played the unprecedented number of 37 games, and in the supplementary series Tarrasch heat the American champion by 2½ to 1½. Another splendid performance of his was to win the chief prize in the Monte Carlo tournament of 1903, after a most discouraging beginning, which would have unnerved a player of less resolution.  Dr. Tarrasch is a native of Breslau, where he was born in 1862.
     Michael Tschigorin, one of the veterans in the chess arena, has long been known to the public by his brilliant style of play and his wide knowledge of the gambits, which, though generally unsound, appeal most to the "gallery." It must not be supposed, however, that the famous Russian cannot hold his own when it comes to facing equals in serious combat, for his frequent successes in events of importance most eloquently attest the fallacy of this idea. In fact, Steinitz, whom he twice challenged for the world's championship, found him an opponent in every way worthy of his steel and only barely succeeded in downing him, in the first match by 10 to 6, and in the second by 10 to 8. In a match of two games to test certain openings, conducted by cable between New York and St. Petersburg, Tschigorin scored both. First prizes have fallen to the Russian at Budapest in 1896 and in the gambit tournament at Vienna in 1903. In the seventh American chess congress of 1889, held in New York, Tschigorin tied for first prize with Max Weiss, of Vienna. After playing 38 games in the tournament proper, the two contested an additional series of games to decide the supremacy, and all four of these were drawn, in consequence of which the first and second prizes were divided between them. Tschigorin was born in the Russian capital in 1850.
     Besides the players already mentioned, a host of both master and amateur exponents deserve notice, did space permit. Dr. J. H. Zukertort, who was born in Russian Poland in 1842 and died in London in 1888, took first prize in the great Paris tournament of 1878, and the same distinction in the still more important contest at London in 1883, when he easily distanced Steinitz. These performances marked him as one of the greatest players of all time, yet he failed when it came to a duel for the world's championship with Steinitz. Lowenthal and Horwitz, who participated in the London tournament of 1851, were in their prime before the present generation of players had learned the moves. Baron Kolisch, winner of the Paris tournament of 1867, and a brilliant player of the highest order; Simon Winawer, G. R. Neumann and S. Rosenthal, also participants on that occasion, have one and all achieved great things on the checkered board.

     Among chess devotees active to-day should be named Baron Albert de Rothschild, of Vienna, and Professor Isaac L. Rice, of New York. It is perhaps not generally known outside of chess circles that the Rothschilds have been identified with the game. Anselm Meyer Rothschild, the founder of the house, was the strongest player in Frank fort-on-the-Main during his time. It was through his proficiency in the game that he became acquainted with the Prince of Hesse, who during the term of the great Napoleon instrusted Rothschild with his money. His grandson, Baron de Rothschild, born in 1844, is the present head of the Vienna house and the honorary president of the Vienna Chess Club, He is also a very strong player, and his support of the game is largely responsible for its popularity in the Austrian capital. There has hardly been an international tournament of late years that he has not endowed with the famous Rothschild brilliancy prizes.
     Among patrons of the game in America, Professor Isaac L. Rice of New York is facile princeps. A man of ample means, this ardent enthusiast has had the means to advance the cause as few others have been privileged to do. But his active interest in the game did not cease with the mere drawing of a check. On the contrary, himself a player of no mean ability, he has personally investigated certain variations of the well-known Kieseritsky gambit, one of the most forceful methods of development among the openings. The result was that one particular line of play, wherein an entire piece is sacrificed by the white forces, has been named after him, "the Rice Gambit," a distinction of which very few chess devotees now living can boast. Professor Rice was born in 1850, in the mediaeval town of Wachenheim, in the Rhenish Palatinate, Bavaria, but came to this country at an early age. His membership in the Association of the Bar of the City of New York dates back to 1883. Professor Rice was most active as a corporation lawyer and figured prominently in the reorganization of many important railroad properties. Later he became identified with electric and industrial enterprises and is at present interested in the development of submarine boats. Music and literature are other hobbies of this active man, who, in addition to many similar posts of responsibility, holds the position of president of the Forum Publishing Company.
     There is space only to mention the names of eminent players like Berthold Englisch, Dr. Fleissig, Adolph Schwartz, Arnold Schottlander, J. Schwartz, Dr. Josef Noa, Max Weiss, Isidor Gunsberg, S. Taubenhaus, E. Schiffers, Simon Lipschuetz, Max Judd, Jacques Mieses, Max Harmonist, L. Van Vliet, Emil Kemeny, Adolf Albin, Rudolph Charousek (a world beater, when cut off in his youth), W. Cohn, Horatio Caro, Alexander Halprin, Rudolph Swiderski, S. Wolf, O. S. Bernstein and last, but not least, Julius Finn, New York's gifted young blindfold player. All these form a goodly company, who, were it possible to array them side by side, could easily sweep from the field any team of equal numbers composed of all other nationalities. What more indeed could be said in support of the claim that in the world of chess the Jew reigns supreme?

Hartwig C. Cassel.


In a related article, Chess in the Press, May 24, 1993 noted:

"Freedom of the Chessboard; Jewish Achievement in the Royal Game."
Finkelstein, Michael. Commentary (March 1946), p. 46-49.
  Apparently written as a rebuttal to the articles which appeared under Alekhine's signature in Deutsche Schachzeitung in 1941.
It was asserted that Jewish chess was lacking in courage and devoid of creative ability. The author notes that Jews were prominent in chess: world champs Steinitz and Lasker, US national champs Fine, Reshevsky, and Denker; Botvinnik and Levenfish from Russia, etc.
At Nottingham 1936, 5 of the 15 players were Jewish; at the 1938 US Championship, 15 of 17 players were Jewish, including the top 10 finishers; in the 1945 radio match between the US and USSR, 9 of the 10 US players and 4 of the 10 Soviets were Jewish as well.
The author suggests that Jews excelled in chess in Europe because chess was one of the few fields that provided equal opportunities for them, and no special advantages were required to
become the better player. Few Jews could be expected to be invited into the homes of the local gentry, government officials, etc., but Jewish chessplayers frequently were. The Rothschild family donated prizes to many tournaments before WWI.